The Haas F1 Team’s Australian Grand Prix weekend can be put in two ways: some good, but mostly bad.
However, most importantly, their long-run and one-lap pace is promising entering the 2018 season. For the die-hard fan, this is great as it will create more intrigue in what looks set to be a tight midfield battle in 2018.
Regrettably, their strong weekend fell into the hands of the most unusual of problems. They could have provided an even better race for the fans with Daniel Ricciardo’s attacking race approach trying to get by, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Let’s look at how their weekend unfolded for the season-opening race on the streets of Albert Park.
|FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1||FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||1:25.730||24||6.||Romain Grosjean||1:24.648||34|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||1:27.035||13||9.||Kevin Magnussen||1:25.246||30|
Coming off the back of a solid test programme in Barcelona, it was finally shown on Friday that their pace was true. Changing from a resurfaced, cold, purpose-built track to a bumpy, street circuit in Melbourne proved to be no challenge for them with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen showing off their package in the afternoon practice session finishing sixth and ninth respectively, racking up 64 laps combined.
“It’s been a good day,” said Grosjean at the end of Friday. “I’m happy with the car and the guys did a great job getting everything ready.
“We had a successful winter test, and it’s good to confirm that the car is up there on a different track and with different temperatures.
“Obviously, it’s early stages and we need to keep up the work and keep building everything. There are areas where we can improve the car but, generally, I’m very happy with how today went.”
“I’m fairly positive, but we still have some work to do,” Magnussen added.
“I had quite a few abnormal issues today – nothing big – but little annoying issues with small things that were breaking. That stopped us from running as much as we’d hoped for, at least on my side.
“We got at least one run that was representative where I got to feel the car, and I was happy with the feeling. I’m looking forward to trying again tomorrow.
”I have a feeling we have a good package.”
|FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3||QUALIFYING|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||1:36.171||6||6.||Kevin Magnussen||1:23.187||17|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||1:36.807||7||7.||Romain Grosjean||1:23.339||17|
It was time to really take the covers off and unleash the Ferrari power unit.
At the pointy end, Mercedes were basically as Daniel Ricciardo described it: “like getting a pie to your face”. But Haas fought out qualifying fair and square with the other teams.
They deservedly made it into the final ten, running exclusively on Ultrasoft tyres across all three sessions. They also chose to do only one run, which probably benefited them given Bottas’ accident. Given the team was not a contender for pole position, it made little sense to waste tyre and engine mileage in a pointless battle with the frontrunners.
It was the second time Haas had got two of its drivers into Q3 with the last time being at the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix when Esteban Gutiérrez was at the helm. Magnussen also equalled Haas’ highest ever qualifying position by finishing sixth-fastest.
“Everyone’s very happy and it reflects the hard work from everyone on the team,” spoke Grosjean proudly.
“Our result confirmed a little bit what we saw in winter testing. I can push the car as much as I want, which obviously makes me very happy.
“Points could be possible. Obviously, we want to keep our positions. We’re starting in a good place, but we’ll see tomorrow what happens. This is a good start. We can be very proud, but we need to keep pushing.”
“The car was nice to drive in qualifying,” declared Magnussen. “It was just there, and performing. I was able to push brake points – get off the brakes earlier and earlier with every lap. It wasn’t doing anything unexpected, which was really nice.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow starting in P5. We have some quick guys behind us, and we’ll have to do well to keep it that way. We’ll be doing all we can to get a good result.
“We need a solid start to the season and we need to capitalize on today’s qualifying result.”
“We delivered on what we showed since the beginning of the season,” also added Haas Team Principal, Guenther Steiner.
“It’s tough, our competitors are strong, and we need to keep our guard up.
“It’s a fantastic day for the team. They can be proud of what they did. In your third year, to be starting fifth and sixth, it’s fantastic and down to them.
“Tomorrow is another hard day.”
His words would be prophetic…
|FORMULA 1 2018 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (58 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||24||Wheel Nut|
|DNF.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||22||Wheel Nut|
Sunday came with its early benefits promoting both drivers to lock out the third row after Ricciardo’s controversial grid penalty on Friday.
Magnussen’s lightning start off the grid paid dividends, catapulting him to fourth as he passed Red Bull Racing ace Max Verstappen on the outside of Turn 1. Verstappen’s later set-up headaches promoted Grosjean into fifth after the Dutchman spun at the first corner later in the race, but things were to fall apart from there.
Magnussen would leave the pit lane on Lap 23, shouting over the radio he had a suspension problem before pulling over and ending his race at Turn 3. It was gathered later it was a loose wheel-nut.
Amazingly, the same would happen to Grosjean two laps later, forcing him to pull over at Turn 2 and bring out the Safety Car.
The damning problem was investigated soon after where a cross-threading issue between the wheel nut and the pit guns would be to blame.
The emotion from the mechanics out the back painted the whole story.
A potential 22 points were coming the way of the Haas team, potentially placing them equal second with Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship standings. It would have been a giant-killing result in the team’s short history.
But this is motor racing and as hard as it can be to swallow, this stuff can happen.
“We had a good car all weekend,” said Grosjean openly. “I was happy with our low- and high-fuel pace, I had great pace today.
“We’ll now analyse everything and work out what happened exactly. We’ll come back stronger as we always do.
“It’s a lot of points lost today, but if we can repeat that performance over and over, we’re going to forget this very quickly.”
“It’s almost unbelievable to have this in one race, and on two cars, while running fourth and fifth. It’s very disappointing,” furthered a stunned Guenther Steiner.
“The good thing we can take away from this is that the car is competitive. We just need to get our heads up again, to get well prepared for Bahrain. We’ll focus on that one and get our pit stops sorted out.”
It’s a shame the American team couldn’t come out of Australia with a haul of points. Few would deny that the team honestly deserved every single one of them being a midfield team, given the battle is stronger than ever this year and a handful of points could really make a difference.
Some on social media outrageously tried to connect the incident to a Ferrari/Haas partnership conspiracy but it’s safe to say the looks on those mechanics faces post-race were as raw as it can get.
But it’s not like Haas have not had one-race wonders here in Melbourne before. Who could forget their amazing debut race with Grosjean coming home to salvage sixth when starting from 20th in 2016. Albert Park shows to be a strong track for the American team, but the pace in testing proves their ability to be far beyond one weekend in Melbourne.
The main thing is that they must move ahead to Bahrain and put this behind them. They will be a strong contender this year and one to keep an eye on all the way to the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.